I-5 SFBA to LA

Where’s a good spot to eat on I-5 before hitting LA? I’m curious in general, but for current purposes, I’ll be leaving SF at about 8am.

Tita’s Pupuseria in Buttonwillow worked out the last time I headed that direction.

Wool Growers, a Basque place in Los Banos, won’t be open by the time we pass it, but I’m curious-- do they have an a la carte menu or is it only multi-course/family style?

SF Gate lists a few other options.

This brings back memories: I posted this question at Chowhound back around the turn of the millennium. Half the responses were people saying just take 101, which was kind of missing the point, but there was some good info as well.

There are two taquerias I love in Los Banos, on opposite sides of 152 (so whichever direction I’m traveling one of them is convenient): Cutija, a little hut at 152 (on the south side) and Center, and Carniceria La Michoacana at 152 (on the north side) and Maryland. Cutija has really good tortas. At La Michoacana I’ve mainly just gotten burritos, which were excellent.



Heh, the current head honcho at Chowhound started a similar thread last year, but he never replied back to a bunch of good suggestions. Say what you want of Sy Sperling, but he was not only the president of the Hair Club for Men— he was also a client.

There is an outlet mall in Arvin, right on the north side of the Grapevine, that has a Black Bear Diner and a Habit Grill. The former is totally fine for diner standards. The latter is pretty good for a (small) chain burger. We just drove by these on our way north to SF after Xmas and my 8 year old daughter was furious we weren’t stopping at Habit when she spotted the sign.

Black Bear is my go-to when I’m on the road and don’t know of anything local. Much better than average for, as you say, diner standards. They make their own corned beef hash, which by itself puts them in at least the 75th percentile for roadside breakfast places.

If you held out for Buttonwillow, why not go the extra 20 miles and jog over to Bakersfield, still considered the Basque food capitol?

If you choose I-5, though, you aren’t suppose to stop except for gas. Grab a Twix from a vending machine, and you’ll be in LA in time for a late lunch.

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Years (make that decades) ago I used to drive to Fresno with a non-foodie co-worker for field work. We’d stop in Los Banos before hitting I-5. He’d head for McDonald’s (he was driving) and I’d hit a taqueria next door (or across the street?) Was one of your faves next to McD’s?

No McDonalds nearby today. Checking Google Maps, there’s a McDonald’s at the junction of 152 & 165; there is a taqueria (El Rodeo) across 165, in the strip mall with the Save-Mart and Rite Aid. I’m not sure how long that place has been around, though.

If there were a freeway I might endorse this view, but driving the Roseville Highway is like having teeth pulled. Two-lane most of the way, and there are always painfully slow trucks right in front of you.

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Er, I’d forgotten I had an HO account and emailed Hyperbowl about this. I mirror the email below. --psb


This may not satisfy your parameters – and I am likely too late – but i would often go to BRENT’S DELI in NORTHRIDGE, before making the Northbound jump to hyperspace [i.e. driving >100mph on I-5]. I thought their LEMON BAR was very good.

If you are up to detouring to BAKERSFIELD, this taqueria was PHENOMENAL:

To use the apropos language of Bibendum/The Michelin, “worth a detour”.

I assume you know about this:

[extra disclaimer: I havent been to either of these places for >3years]

Off 101, rather than I-5, but this this place worth analyzing?

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d’Oh! It’s Rosedale Highway, not Roseville. I knew that.

Thanks for the suggestions!

Bakersfield would have added another hour to our rainy trip, so we stuck closer to I-5. On the way down, it was Tita’s Pupuseria, the brick and mortar 1/4 mile down from the food truck. Their pupusas continued to be large and good (loroco and cheese!) but the steamed Salvadoran chicken tamale was my favorite item this time.

On the way back, we took @TVHilton’s suggestion for Cutija in Los Banos, which I learned is pronounced “Loss” Banos, same as “Loss” Angeles. Anyway, nicely seasoned meat on the carne asada taco. Chili verde, rice, and beans wasn’t very good so I’ll stick to tacos and tortas next time!

Re the picon punch, a better substitute than Torani Amer for the elusive ingredient Amer Picon is Bigallet China-China Amer, available in better liquor stores. Bittermen’s Amer Nouvelle will also work.

Absolutely no doubt that Tita’s is the best choice. But in addition to the truck (which is Fly City most of the year) Tita has a real restaurant a block north. A better choice in my opinion.

Tacos & tortas are all I’ve had there (usually al pastor or carnitas), so good to know.

Working on a trial in Orange County, which promises to go on for several months, so I’ve already done a round-trip on I-5 and expect to do a few more.

Southbound, I meant to try Taqueria y Carniceria Mexico in Kettleman City, but it was closed when I got there. Happily, there’s another taqueria closer to the freeway–Chalio’s, which is open 24 hours. It’s a big warehousey interior, and looks like in better times they have live music and dancing there. Got a chorizo burrito on my way south, and an adobada burrito on my return; both were excellent. Solid alternative to chain fast-food if you’re going through there.


For the full kitsch experience, there’s always Andersen’s Pea Soup in Santa Nella.

I was at Tita’s like 10 years ago and had horrible service. They tried to over-charge and no salsa, even after asking twice.

In any case, after that went to Elsy’s Antojitos at the ARCO station in Buttonwillow, CA. off 1-5. LIke it.

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Update: had the barbacoa on my way south Friday, and wasn’t in love. Not as flavorful as I’d hoped, and a little tough.